Pakistan Tour
Into the Mighty North

Pakistan Tour – Into the Mighty North – an 19 day Small Group Tour.

Pakistan remains a fiendishly impossible country to package, and perhaps for this reason its allure is profound and enduring. No single visit should seek to condense what must be one of the world’s most diverse and intense travel destination.

Undiscovered Destinations Pakistan tour combines some of the countries most spectacular mountain scenery and explorations of fascinating historic sites, and ample opportunity to observe village and rural life – it’s a truly memorable experience for any visitor.



This encompassing adventure of Pakistan’s spectacular northern regions takes travellers to a near mythical land, where traditions have changed little in centuries and the scenery is simply among the best on the planet.

We begin by exploring the modern capital of Islamabad, before making our way towards Baltistan, travelling the fabled Karakoram Highway. We explore the Hunza, an area of jaw-dropping magnificence blessed with idyllic villages and people of genuine warmth, a region that some purport to have inspired the legend of Shangri La.

Along the way we will delve into the rich history – a chain of dramatic forts and watchtowers as well as other historical wonders such as ancient petroglyphs. We also join the locals in the heady blend of vivid, vibrant bazaars, feasting on sumptuous local dishes, marvelling at mighty glaciers and shimmering turquoise lakes carving through dramatic valleys, and of course pausing endlessly to drink in the inspiring panoramas of the snow clad summits of the Himalaya and Karakorum ranges.

Tour ratings.

  • Fitness
  • Off the beaten track
  • Culture 
  • History 
  • Wildlife 

Tour pace


Tour style


Relaxed Pace

Relaxed tours are easy paced with plenty of leisure time built in. The tour will in all probability still be off the beaten track, with the occasional early start and there may still be occasional long drives. In general on a relaxed pace tour you can enjoy easy-going activities and experiences with opportunities to absorb the sights and immerse yourself in the local surroundings.

Moderate Pace

Moderate pace tours are ideal if you want a tour experience that combines activities and experiences with some time to relax. Typically you will be active and busy for part of the day but then also have time to rest and recharge your batteries. In general on a moderate paced tour there may be some long journeys involved but the tour is not an expedition or a road trip. On a moderate paced tour it will be necessary to have some early starts.

Busy Pace

A busy paced tour means that you can expect to be doing, seeing or experiencing something new almost every day, and moving on from place to place to pack in as much as possible. There may be early starts, long journeys and tiring days along the way, but you’ll return home feeling you’ve really experienced as much as you possibly could.

Pioneer Class Tours

On our Pioneer tours, you will be amongst an elite group of intrepid travellers and some of the first to explore a country that few have been privileged enough to discover. Of course, exploring such areas of the world will come with its challenges; it may mean several nights camping, long journeys by 4WD and the need to maintain a degree of flexibility for when carefully laid plans change. These are challenging tours in countries and areas that may have poor infrastructure, high levels of poverty and illiteracy. This can translate in to low standards in hotels, bad roads and poor driving standards among other issues. We try and smooth out as much of these issues as we can but you should be prepared to experience the bad with the good.

Traveller Class Tours

Our Traveller itineraries are at the core of our programme. These journeys are designed for travellers who still want to discover a land away from the tourist crowds but expect minimum standards. Accommodation will be primarily hotel based, although you could still find yourself camping, or the guest of a local family. Depending on the destination and itinerary, you’ll likely be travelling in a private vehicle, with occasional use of public transport. This is adventure travel with some of the rough edges smoothed out.


Upon arrival, a member of our local team will be waiting to greet you at the airport and transfer to your hotel. Tomorrow morning at breakfast there will be a tour briefing with your local guide to outline the adventure ahead. Overnight Hotel de Papae or similar. No meals are included today.

After a breakfast tour-briefing with the guide, your journey starts with an exploration of the capital Islamabad and nearby Rawalpindi.  Sites in the former will include, the Shah Faisal Mosque, once the largest example in the world and elegantly modelled on a vast Bedouin tent, the Government buildings on Constitution Avenue, Shakar Parian Park with its aromatic rose and jasmine garden, the Pakistan Monument, and the Lok Virsa heritage museum. From there you will cross into Punjab to experience the sensory explosion of the Raja Bazaar area in neighbouring Rawalpindi where a chaos of colours urges you to buy anything from a salwar kameez to a copper saucepan, and from there Daman-e-Koh, a peaceful hillside vantage point which gazes out over the emerald expanses toward the twin cities. Overnight Hotel de Papae or similar (BLD)

(Approximate driving tome today is 6 hours)

Today you will rise early to hit the fabled KKH at around 8am and drive steadily northwards towards your ultimate goal of Besham. Stopping at Hasan Abdal will provide you with some insight into the intricate skill of truck-art painting: the majority of HGVs that ply this route are colourfully adorned and you can’t help but be entertained by the array of dazzling examples that trundle by as you head north. Later, a stop close to Manshera will reveal the intricately etched Asoka Rock Edicts, dating back to the 3rd century BC and written in the ancient Indic script of Gandhara culture. The site has been submitted for inclusion as a World Heritage Site and, whilst faded and battered, they offer a sense of the richness of the Maurya Empire. Thereafter you continue to Besham. Overnight Besham Hilton Hotel or similar (BL)


(Approximate driving time today is 6 hours)

Beyond Besham the Karakoram highway hugs the steep sides of the famous Indus gorge and the great river remains a constant companion throughout the day, a broad ribbon of pale cyan offering striking views into the depths of its ravines and across to the rugged mountains in the near and far distance, while Great egrets and maybe even ultra-rare Siberian cranes pound their elegant path overhead. Along the way you will be compelled to pause and enjoy an invidious choice of scenic viewpoints, such as at Dassu, proposed site of a colossal H.E.P. dam scheme and it is impossible to pass by without pausing to examine the ubiquitous Buddhist petroglyphs left by various invaders, traders and pilgrims who passed along the trade route, as well as by local devotees. The earliest carvings date back to between 5000 and 1000 BC, depicting single animals, triangular men and hunting scenes in which the prey sometimes appear to ominously dwarf the hunters. Incredibly, the earliest of these carvings were engraved into the rocks with primitive stone tools and are covered with a thick patina that indicates their antiquity. Overnight Panorama Hotel or similar (BL)

(Approximate driving time today is 3 hours)

Leaving the irrigated green terraces of Chilas behind, the sun slowly steeps into the narrow valleys. From here your journey penetrates into higher terrain, desiccated and boulder strewn. Occasionally the road sweeps past forests of deep jade which contrast exquisitely with the snowy upper reaches of some of the mountains. Heading towards Gilgit, your route crosses the impressive Raikot Bridge and heads sinuously through the crisp air until you break awhile at a viewpoint where, if the skies are clear, it should afford views of the majestic peak of Nanga Parbat mountain at 8216m. A little further north and the confluence of the Indus and Gilgit Rivers is attained, hard by Jaglot. A break is a must since it is here that three of the world’s greatest mountain ranges converge: the Karakoram, Hindukush and the mighty Himalaya, a perfect storm of titanic proportions. Emerging into the unexpected irrigated emerald expanses that surround Gilgit, there will be time to explore several sites including the bustling Gilgit Bazaar area as well as the dramatic Kargah Buddha outside town; standing some 50 feet high and dating from the 7th century, it stands sentinel over the valley under a natural canopy of frowning rock. Overnight Gilgit Continental Hotel or similar (BL)

(Approximate driving time over the 2 days is 8 hours)

The next leg of the journey is split into 2 days owing to construction ongoing on the route.

Our exploration of these high valleys sweeps east and away from the KKH for a few days immersing yourself in the less-populated and stunning scenery of the upper reaches of the Indus – the Balistan region. As the road gradually rises, you will enjoy the constant changing scenery at every new turn and will visit various small villages along the way to get a feel for local life. In Astak you will visit local gemstone miners who will relate how the community works for collective benefit in the informal mining of these exquisite treasures. Afterwards there may be time to wander through the surprisingly eclectic bazaar. Overnight Astak PTDC Motel, or similar, on Day 6 and Summit Hotel, or similar, in Skardu (BL)

(Approximate driving time today is 3 hours)

Today explore the diverse nature and attractive villages in and around the Skardu and Shigar areas, all held in the far-reaching gaze of the 16th Century Skardu Fort which affords panoramic views of the wider valley and Karakorum Range and beyond.  Also visit the Katpana Desert, one of the world’s highest cold deserts whose silky grey dunes seem incongruous amidst the gritty surroundings. Nearby, Shigar Fort, dating from the 17th Century and recently restored, is a delightfully elegant boulder and wooden construction atop a rock, alongside a rushing stream; you will enjoy lunch here in the gardens if weather conditions allow. You will also break for tea at stunning Satpara Lake (2636m) amidst jaw dropping scenery that demands a deluge of photographic memories.  Overnight Summit Hotel, or similar, in Skardu (BL)

(Approximate driving time is 3 hours)

Further still into the splendour of the Saltoro Range, as you follow the enigmatically braided Shyok River, choked with meltwater boulders and shingle. A magnificent 3 hour drive, marvelling at the raw jagged outlines of the peaks that shear brutally from the rooftop of the world, brings you to the sanctuary of Khaplu a village sheltered in the crook of the Karakoram Mountains. From this historic fortified settlement, you will enjoy a gentle walk to a viewpoint with incredible panoramic views and whose window on the rank after rank of high altitude ranges simply beggars belief. Enjoy lunch at wonderfully restored Khaplu Palace and thereafter take a tour of the palace complex and the 700 year old Chaqchan Mosque, a cream washed and wooden-framed gem of architecture. You may be fortunate to catch sight of the majestic mountain icon that is Masherbrum (7,821 m) from here. Overnight Karakorum Lodge, or similar (BL)

(Approximate driving time is 6 hours)

Leaving the heady delights of Baltistan behind, you will retrace your steps towards Skardu, this time with the sun on your left, illuminating the beige-coloured frowning crags and longs scree slides against the deep cobalt of the skies.  At lunchtime, a side road soldiers up to one of the regions most celebrated viewpoint – the idyllic glassy vantage point of Kachura Lake. Nicknamed ‘Shangri-La Lake’ owing to a resort named after a fabled Buddhist retreat, the name literally ‘Heaven on Earth’ and it is hard to argue, since the vista here at the opening up of the Indus valley is a photographer’s nirvana. From here you descend into to Astak for your accommodation. Overnight Astak PTDC Motel, or similar (BL)

(Approximate driving time is 5 – 6 hours)

After returning down the Indus gorge to Gilgit this morning, you take lunch and then turn north and up the Hunza River to continue your Karakoram Highway ascent, flanked by the ever increasing elevations of the resplendent snow-clad Himalayan and Karakoram ranges. Near Chalt, at a seemingly insignificant buttress of rock, you will stop to find out why this is the epicentre of the colossal topographical feature of the highest massif in the world: here, 55 million years ago, the Indian Continental plate collided with the Eurasian plate and forced up the Himalayas which still rise about 1cm annually. Oddly, this is precisely the spot in which local bridal processions also used to pause to make sacrifices before the collision of two different cultures! As your route swings eastwards, the road is suddenly dominated by the great goliath of Rakaposhi Peak shimmering white, whose arêtes and tongues of glaciers almost seem to descend to the green valley bottom. Here you will come upon Thole Nagar, where there will be an opportunity to sample the local delicacy of chapshoro (a regional take on pizza). Arriving at Rakaposhi village, there will be time to relax and drink in the awesome beauty of Rakaposhi’s 7,788m. Overnight local guesthouse, or similar (BL)

(Approximate driving time is 1 hour)

Today’s short but spectacular drive to Karimabad clings to the steep sides of the mountain above the crumbling chasm of the Hunza River. Karimabad is the main town of the Hunza Valley region and a real cultural and historic hub. You will explore the area, meeting with local people and trying to gauge an understanding of the secrets of their longevity. After a lunch of traditional Hunza dishes, you visit some of the prominent historical sites such as Baltit Fort, former seat of the Mirs of Hunza and perched on wedding-cake-like tiers of cobbles, the ancient Silk Road village of Ganish – ‘village of gold’ – and its watch tower, and Altit Fort which gazes imperiously from its precipitous seat across the expanses of the valley. Later enjoy the kaleidoscopic shifts in colours on the soaring summits at sunset from the stunning viewpoint in Duikar.  Overnight Hunza Embassy Lodge (BL)

(Approximate driving time is 3 – 4 hours)

Today your base camp remains in Hunza: you take a day trip to the remote Nagar Valley, situated at an elevation of around 2500 metres above sea level to visit some of the idyllic and peaceful villages which cluster around the broad-bottomed glacial flats or cling to the steep slopes along zig-zagging tracks and meet with local people. From here, we forge higher into the Hopar Valley which transitions from meltwater streams to the snout of one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world – the Hopar Glacier – a sobering sight which encapsulates the unimaginable power of nature as it grinds down the grooves in the mountain, creating the incredible landscape you see before you. Overnight Hunza Embassy Lodge or similar (BL)

Note – Hopar Glacier Walk: For those that wish to walk from the vehicle to the glacier the walk takes around 1 hour each way and involves both ascent and descent on variable terrain. The walk should be undertaken by those with good footwear and who are of a reasonable trekking fitness. For those that do not wish to walk there are places to sit where refreshments are available whilst enjoying the photographic opportunities afforded by the views of the glacier and beyond.

(Approximate driving time is 3 hours)

Today you continue to eastwards towards Gulmit and the Upper Hunza via the newly constructed road. The road initially clings to the north-facing slopes of the valley, giving you superb vistas of the sunlit peaks in the Batura Muztagh range which rises to 7,795m.  As the route starts to back northwards, you will stop and stretch your legs beside the superb scenery of Attabad Lake, which, bizarrely, has only existed a few years, created by a massive landslide blocking the flow of the Hunza River for months in 2010. The crisis that ensued as the valley’s villages were displaced to the hillsides resulted in a $275 million project to reinstate the KKH with a new tunnel, completed in 2015. On arrival at Gulmit, ‘Valley of the Flowers’, which clings to the northern slopes above the Hunza, you explore the town and surrounding area including the Passu glacier and the precarious Hussaini hanging bridge. In Gulmit village, visit the museum with its unique collection showcasing the rich fabric of Hunza history, its polo ground, and a local traditional music school (subject to permission). Either later today or early tomorrow there will also be an option for those that wish to undertake a hike to Kamaris village from which one can enjoy superb views on a clear day. The walk is around 1 hour each way and is of an easy grade, involving some up and downhill sections. A particular joy is the incredible outline of Topopdan Peak, with its array of secondary pinnacles which rise like spectacular royal icing from its snowy buttresses. Overnight Silk Route Lodge, or similar (BL)

(Approximate driving time is 2.5 hours)

Having reached the northernmost point of your traversing the KKH, only 114km from the Khunjerab Pass and the gateway to China, you begin to head back south to Minapin, at the heart of the Nagar Valley, ascending the small hill-roads to reach this spot, sequestered far away from the well-trodden highway. This is climbers’ country too: every season, this is the starting point for approaches to Rakaposhi and Diran base camps, and weather permitting you too will enjoy superb views of the mountains from here. On arrival, you spend the time exploring the village and learn how to cook a traditional Nagar meal which is prepared in a stone pot. Thereafter, there will be time to relax and imbibe the sublime scenery and overridingly peaceful ambience. Overnight at local guest house in Minapin (BL)

(Approximate driving time is 4 hours)

From Minapin you descend the Karakoram Highway as far as Chilas, re-joining the Indus as your constant companion for the route south-west. You make a stop en route at a small village to sit front row at a local polo match, experiencing the raw thrills of this skilful and fast-paced horseback sport, a firm favourite activity in Pakistani culture. This afternoon you continue to the dusty town of Chilas for our overnight stay. Overnight Panorama Hotel or similar (BL)

(Approximate driving time today is 3 hours)

From Chilas, perhaps the most exciting element of your mountain drive awaits: leaving the KKH behind, the road turns decisively southwards and ploughs steadily upwards into the Babusar Pass. Known affectionately as Babur Top after a 16th century Mughal emperor who favoured this route, at 4,173m you are in rarefied territory: the views, as the vehicle snakes steadily up a series of hairpin bends to the surprisingly open summit, offer a real insight into the incomparable topography of this exquisitely beautiful area of the Lower Himalayas. The route is only open to cars in the spring and summer since the snouts of glaciers encroach across the road through the colder season. In summer, these open mountainsides are home to nomadic herds. Then, over the watershed, you gradually descend into the Kaghan Valley before reaching your destination of the small town of Naran. Here the turquoise waters of the river meet a narrowing, alpine-styled valley, where steep spurs are clad in coniferous trees above the settlement in the flat valley below. If time allows it, you will visit the legendary lake of Saif ul Muluk, lying at 3,200m, high above the town. The glassy waters are simply idyllic, set against the backdrop of Malika Parbat (5271m), the highest peak of the valley, which towers above, offering and the perfect opportunity for some truly memorable photographic opportunities.Overnight stay PTDC Motel (BL)

(Approximate driving time today is 6 hours)

After breakfast you start the last stage of your journey. This afternoon your will visit the important archaeological site of Taxila (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) where you will also have lunch. You then continue to the capital of Islamabad to complete this epic journey through Northern Pakistan. As a special goodbye, this evening you will enjoy a farewell dinner at Monal restaurant atop the Margalla Hills and eat great local food while gazing down towards Islamabad and Rawalpindi.  Overnight Hotel de Papae or similar (BLD)

Transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)

Dates & Price.

Tour Notes

This group tour operates subject to a minimum group size of 2 travellers, although for 2 travellers you will not be accompanied by a guide throughout.

Single Supplement from £530.

Return flights to Islamabad start from £500 from London. Please contact us for a quotation

In early season and in times of adverse weather it will be necessary on Day 17 to return via Besham instead of via the Babusar pass.

Want to see details of your itinerary on a map?

Download the full tour dossier for this trip here.

For expert advice get in touch now with our passionate,
well-travelled team.

+44(0) 191 296 2674 from THE UK
1-800-614-2967 from THE US & CANADA
1-300-956-415 from AUSTRALIA

Pakistan Tour inclusions.

  • Arrival and departure transfers
  • All transport on tour
  • All accommodation on twin-share basis
  • Entrance fees for excursions listed in the itinerary
  • Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
  • Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
  • Visa support documents

Pakistan Tour exclusions.

  • International flights
  • Any airport taxes
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visas
  • Services, Meals and Drinks other than those mentioned in the itinerary
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Tips

A trip that exceeded expectations. Well supported in India and excellent heritage hotels and comfortable vehicle.

Julia Killick, UK